Website content: Applegreen tips
There are some simple rules for tackling website content. Put simply, what is obvious to you may not be so to others. Think about the first things a newcomer to your business or organisation is likely to wish to know about it. Of course you should state plainly who you are and what you do, but what else?
What follows should help you decide what information your visitors need, how it is organised and how search engines use it to work out if you are trustworthy.
If you're promoting a high-street shop, a visitor may simply want to know your opening times, your location or your telephone number. If these are not easy to find they will leave, no matter how enticing your website.
Likewise a church should advertise its location and service times, a school should provide its address before its Ofsted results, a restaurant should indicate opening times, a telephone number and booking button alongside the delightful menus. Think obvious.
Tell visitors what you do at a glance. Your brand name should be clear, your purpose unambiguous and your design free from clutter.
Your website home page
Your home page should encapsulate your core message in an attractive, easy-to-read format. It should also inspire confidence that you can deliver what you promise. Keep it short, use links to guide your reader to further reading and make your USP (unique selling point) immediately clear to the visitor.
Draw your visitor to the next step with a visible Call To Action (CTA) such as a button saying "Book now!" or a "Read this!".
Be also aware that the home page may not even be the first page your land on. Your logo, strapline and contact details should appear on every page. If your logo and header take up a lot of space on the home page, you may want to simplify them for the inner pages.
About us — well what?
An About page is your chance to introduce the person or people behind the project. So how much should you say about yourself in your website content?
The answer will vary with the context. If you are promoting yourself as a language teacher offering courses in your own home, your location, interests and personality will influence a client's decision to go with you.
But imagine you are a tailor designing gentlemen's outfits. First-time clients may want to know where you trained and what type of clients you design for, but not where you live or what pets you own. A little information humanises you, and a good photo of you helps build trust, but little more is needed.
If you have introduced yourself on the home page, the About page may be unnecessary.
Other important webpages
The content of other webpages will vary with the purpose of your website. If you are running courses, a page describing each one makes the information accessible to readers. If you are advertising a flat to rent, space needs to be devoted to photographic details and basic information. A charity may need a page on how to donate, in addition to explanations of the charity's work.
Display contact information prominently on every page, as an email link and a phone number in click-to-call format. A Contact Us page can be used to display a webform requesting specific information and a map showing your location. If neither of these is needed, a dedicated contact page may be redundant.
Postage costs and estimated delivery times should be clearly stated where physical products are being offered for sale.
A Frequently Asked Questions page can deal with issues that have arisen in the past (make notes when they do!) or misconceptions that apply to your field. Use the FAQs to recap postage costs, privacy issues and other matters that are dealt with elsewhere.
If you offer extra services or products related to the main focus of the website, a Services page is a good place to explain these.
Testimonials can either be placed on their own page or sprinkled as quotes throughout the other pages.
A Terms and Conditions page is essential if you are selling products or require a deposit. What happens if an event or holiday is cancelled? How long does a client have to change their mind about a product, and how do they return it? In what circumstances will a full refund be paid? Your T&Cs should make clear that you will respect your customers' statutory rights when they buy from you.
T&Cs are also a good place to say what you will not put up with from customers, such as late additions to long projects, or orders for personal delivery in the wrong geographical area. You will add to the list as your business grows!
Internal links, outbound links and social media
The need for central navigation is obvious: visitors can't move around your website content without it. But links to other pages can also be placed throughout the body text. These internal links direct readers and search engines to related information elsewhere on the website.
External links to suppliers, colleagues or inspirational contributors to your field are not only useful for visitors, they help demonstrate to search engines that you are a genuine player.
If you are promoting your brand on social media, include links to these as icons on all your pages.
Images: logos and photos
This topic is dealt with in more detail on our design page. The point to make here is that search engines can index website content more easily as text than in image form. Pictures grab attention and a logo supports your brand, but text should be used for your business name and strapline where possible, and always for headings and body text.
We were once asked to redesign a website that was invisible to Google. Even when we searched on the business name and a small geographical area, the website did not appear. The answer lay in the code: it was made up of images! All of the headings and body text had been created as images that were placed next to each other to look like a website. Humans could read it, but the search engines couldn't.
Unrelated businesses: one website or two?
We are sometimes asked to build a website promoting a business, and then to integrate a different business into the package. We can understand why: it's cheaper than having two websites! But is it a good idea?
We believe that mixing unrelated projects dilutes the focus of a website and confuses the reader, not to mention search engines. We conduct keyword research as part of the basic SEO package for our websites: this cannot be effective if a single website has to do too many jobs. Moreover, a visitor may not take you seriously if part of your website is devoted to topics that do not relate to the one they found you on.
Instead of forcing together two or three projects that don't connect, speak to us about doing a deal on two or more websites. Some savings can be made by working on several projects at once.
Likewise, if you have a social media account associated with your business, don't use it for private comments or holiday snaps...
Website content organisation
How information is broken up into pages, and how those pages are organised hierarchically in the navigation, will determine how easily your website content will be accessed and digested by visitors. There is no perfect formula because so much depends on your individual niche.
The main navigation, once it has been decided, can act as a guide to content as you write it, in case you get daunted by the task. Use it as your guide.
Read more about this on our design page, under the Layout subheading: Website organisation and Structure. It is an area of website creation where design and content overlap!
It is also one of the hardest aspects of web design and the test often only comes at the end, when a design scheme is put through its paces.